The Times are Changing

It’s pretty hard to miss what has happened over the past 5 years. Mobile phones have turned into powerful devices that have made everything from street maps to telephone books obsolete. Mobile service providers now offer more aggressive data plans, making “internet everywhere” more affordable for every member of the family. More and more people are walking around with access to the internet in their pocket or purse.

Our Mobile Society

According to the Pew Research Center, more than 75% of adults under the age of 30 have a smartphone, regardless of income level, and 83% of all adults with a household income level over $75,000 have a smartphone, regardless of age. The only population where smartphone use is not very significant (20% or less) is among those who are over 50 years of age with a household income under $30,000.

Why You Should Care

When someone has a smartphone and they want to search for a local business, product, or service, there is a good chance that they are going to use their smartphone to search. Over 80% of smartphone owners say they never use the Yellow Pages, according to a recent ComScore study. Google recently announced that half of all mobile search traffic has local intent. In other words, if your business relies on winning the business of local customers, you cannot afford to ignore mobile marketing.

What is Mobile Marketing?

You might think that mobile marketing is a matter of having a website that can be viewed on mobile phones. You would be partly right, but it doesn’t stop there. Mobile phones are much more than pocket-sized computers with shrunken-down screens. Because they move around, they interact with global positioning satellites, making location-based marketing a possibility. Since they are phones, they can send and receive sms text messages. And because they are always with us, they are great for carrying around digital coupons. All of these activities can be used for marketing your business, and none of them work on a desktop computer!

Start With a Mobile Website

Mobile Marketing starts with your mobile-optimized website. Websites designed for desktop computers are not mobile-friendly. They usually pack too much information on the page, making it difficult to read and navigate on a small screen. Some businesses have a website using responsive design—one that changes its display to match different screen sizes. Responsive websites are great, because they make your content more readable by anyone who visits with a mobile phone, but they are a compromise between a desktop website and a dedicated mobile website. If you want to leverage the special features of mobile marketing, including sms, digital coupons, geo-location, the easiest and most affordable solution is a stand-alone mobile website.

Who Uses Mobile Websites?

Mobile-optimized websites are a platform for on-the-go mobile phone users. They are often walking on the street, or riding in a car, or shopping at the mall when they decide to search for you. Usually, they are looking for a quick answer. They want to know your business hours, get driving directions, or quickly call you to ask a question. These are the most common reasons a mobile phone user will search for you, and these are exactly the sort of things that mobile-optimized websites are great at providing.

Key Advantages of a Dedicated Mobile Website

User Experience: Mobile websites are designed for handheld, touch-sensitive devices. Mobile-optimized websites greatly improve user experience and user satisfaction, creating a more positive impression for the business. Navigation is easier, text is more readable. Websites designed for mobile require less effort to use, creating a more seamless conversion to a phone call or store visit.

Faster Downloads: The content for mobile-optimized websites is more streamlined. Things are stated with fewer characters, graphics and photos are provided in a smaller format. Everything is faster and uses less bandwidth, resulting in a more engaging experience.

Appropriate Context: Mobile websites provide content with the mobile user in mind, putting information like store hours and locations in more prominent positions than clearance inventory or photo galleries.

Better Placement on Search Engines: Google prefers to send mobile-optimized content for search results that are conducted on a  mobile device. When your content is mobile-optimized, you are more visible to those searching with their mobile phones.

Branding: Given that a majority of local businesses do not yet have a mobile website, being an early-adopter tells your customers that you are keeping up with the latest important trends and technologies.

Competitive Advantage: Google research indicates that a majority of mobile consumers are less likely to do business with a company that does not provide a mobile experience, they are less likely to recommend that company to others, and they are more likely to visit a different company’s website after encountering a poor mobile web experience. By making your website mobile-ready, you are putting your company at an advantage over your competition.

More Cost Effective than Applications: Dedicated mobile applications are popular because of the rise of smartphones, but the cost and time required to develop mobile applications for multiple platforms is often prohibitive. Mobile websites, on the other hand, work on all of the major platforms and do not require submission and approval by a third party before they can be distributed to customers. Dedicated mobile websites use the latest technology to bring the advantages of a stand-alone application to your mobile phone while leveraging the advantages of a website that is completely under your control.

Marketing with Mobile Websites

Marketing comes into play when you encourage an additional outcome as a result of that website visit. You might offer them a digital coupon, good just for that day. Or perhaps you will invite them to sign-up for sms text alerts. Each of these actions can offer subsequent opportunities, such as sharing a coupon with friends through social media, or liking a Facebook page to receive a special offer or contest entry. Mobile marketing campaigns can be simple or complex. They can be promoted on your mobile website to drive traffic to your business, or promoted on other websites to drive traffic to your mobile website. There are many different types of campaigns, and I’ll cover several of them here.

SMS Text Marketing

Text messaging is built into every mobile phone. Just like morse code was used by radio operators when voice communication was impossible, text messages can be used to communicate in noisy environments or when you don’t want others in the room to hear your conversation. They are short, limited to just 160 characters. Where email might sit for hours or days before being read, text messages are typically read within 90 seconds of being received. When coupled with smart phones, a text message can be very powerful, because you can send a web link directly to a person’s phone. Text messages used for purely promotional intent require permission from the customer. Other messages, such as those that deliver requested information or notifications, do not.

Automated Response with SMS

Text messages can be sent as a response to a mobile request. For instance, some realtors use a system that enables drive-by home shoppers to text a keyword to a number and receive a web link to more information about the home. The phone number can also be forwarded to the realtor for future reference or a courtesy call-back.

Appointment Reminders with SMS

Individual messages can be scheduled in some SMS systems for sending appointment reminders at a date in the future. This is great for any business that sets appointments, such as personal care salons, health care professionals, and even oil change specialists. Text reminders reduce missed appointments and provide an opportunity to follow up personally with a customer, such as requesting customer feedback or inviting them to sign up for text-based promotions.

SMS Promotions

The most popular method of using sms marketing is to send promotional offers to subscribers on a somewhat frequent basis. Depending on your business, customers may choose to receive frequent alerts or just occasional messages, depending on what you offer and their level of interest. Clients might want sports score updates, daily lunch specials, or the opportunity to grab a special deal. As long as you tell them up front how many messages they will receive and they agree by explicitly opting-in to your marketing program, nobody will be surprised when that message shows up. Dash-Mobi is our exclusive sms text marketing system. With Dash-Mobi, you can schedule and send promotions and appointments right from your phone, or use the desktop system to create automated responses and advanced text marketing campaigns.

Digital Coupons

Everyone is familiar with coupons. For business owners, they are a great way to encourage trial and build loyalty by offering customers a discount on their return visit. But the redemption rate on paper coupons is actually very low, at around 1%. Digital coupon redemption rates are about 10x higher than paper coupons, mostly due to the convenience of having them already on a person’s phone. Often, digital coupons are simply an online graphic, or web page that displays an offer for redemption. But they can be much more than that.

Coupons with a “brain”

A digital coupon can have programming intelligence written into it. Examples of a smart coupon is one that renews on the first of every month, or 7 days after it’s most recent use. Another example is one that includes “social sharing”. These are special buttons that make it super easy for someone with the coupon to share a promotion with their friends, possibly receiving a reward for sharing. Digital coupons can have any features that you would find on a mobile website, such as tap to call and driving directions. Digital coupons can also be location-sensitive, so that a business owner can run different offers depending on which branch location a customer is nearest to.

Reputation Marketing

Your online reputation can make a tremendous difference in the success of your business. When customers search for your business, they may discover your reputation first, and if they see listings with one and two star reviews, you may never get a second chance. On the other hand, when a customer sees multiple four and five star reviews, they are “pre-sold” before they even get to your business, which almost guarantees they will like what they see. To win more customers, sure they see great reviews when they look for your business!

Mobile Optimized Customer Feedback

If a customer is thrilled with your business, they want to let you know. Give them a “direct line” to your ear with a customer feedback page on your website. Ask them if it’s okay for you to contact them for more information by email, and you will then be able to follow up with a small gift for their feedback and a request to post a review on Google, Yelp, or one of the other popular review websites.

Disappointed Customers are even more likely to want to provide feedback, especially if their emotions are heightened. Being responsive to these customers is your best defense against poor public reviews. Solve their problem, or at least soften it before they take their opinions to a public forum and you will save yourself many years of bad publicity.

More to Come…

So far, I have introduced the ideas of responsive websites as inferior to mobile-optimized websites for local businesses, sms text message marketing, and digital coupons. That is a start, but there is much more that I still need to cover, such as how we incorporate marketing features into your mobile website and the many options available. I will continue adding to this article, but if you don’t want to wait, give me a call or send a message so we can set up a time to talk. I will enjoy hearing from you. —Tim Piazza